Stricter controls on party finances

Prime Minister Costas Simitis yesterday presented a set of proposals to boost transparency in the finances of political parties and politicians by lowering the ceiling on party funding and campaign spending. «We intend to attain transparency in state and private funding for both parties and parliamentary candidates,» the PM told journalists after chairing a four-hour Inner Cabinet meeting on the matter. Simitis said yesterday’s proposals would be incorporated into a new bill on party funding and campaign spending by candidate MPs, but did not specify when this would happen. «As far as we are concerned, the nature of party funding must remain both public and private,» he added. «We do not believe in parties subsisting at the State’s expense, but of course we do not want parties to be dependent on big financial interests.» Under Simitis’s proposed reforms, companies will no longer be allowed to contribute to party funds. This function will be restricted to individuals, whose details must be listed for donations of over 600 euros. The ceiling on such contributions will be halved. State funding, currently set at 0.17 percent of annual public expenditure, will be reduced to 0.125 percent. Furthermore, parties will be obliged to keep books and handle at least 80 percent of their revenues and expenses through bank accounts. The ceiling will also be reduced on campaign spending, while environmentally-unfriendly advertisingwill be banned. And MPs who greatly exceed their spending limits will lose their seats.

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